With more than seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths filling the 32 hectares of parkland with glorious colour, the Keukenhof season runs between March 20 to May 18 when thousands of visitors are expected from all corners of the world.
With around 80 percent of the world’s tulip bulb production coming from Holland – most of which are grown below sea level – Keukenhof is a real showpiece and it can be easily explored on foot or on the Dutch-style bicycles which can be rented in the gardens. Boat trips around the bulb fields are also available while the gardens themselves are open between 8am and 5.30pm daily.
Flowers and Holland are inextricably linked. Especially in the provinces of North Holland and Flevoland, tulip bulb fields, long narrow ditches and green strips of grass add a colourful palette to Holland’s countryside landscape. Flowers are not only one of Holland’s main export products; they also attract many tourists from all over the world, year after year.
The first flower still-life paintings from the 17th Century often came with an educational message. The short blooming period of the flower was often compared to the equally short lifespan of man on earth.
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The Dutch embrace the tulip, be it unofficially, as their national flower. It was Carolus Clusius, Director of the Leiden Botanical Garden, who planted the first tulip bulb in the 16th century.
The flower originates from Turkey or Iran, where it was already very popular amongst the sultans. In the 17th Century, tulip mania reached Holland and it is still an important export product.
During the 1980s and 1990s famous Dutch football players Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard were known in Italy as the tulipani... or the tulips.
The coastal region between Haarlem and Leiden is the traditional bulb growing area because it is where the bulb growing tradition originated, due to its mild climate and chalky soils. Flower bulbs are planted in autumn.
During spring (starting in March) one can drive through expansive, colourful flower fields, a sight to be seen. In the summer, the bulbs are lifted, peeled and dried, in preparation for trade. Other flowers most commonly seen in the bulb region include hyacinths, daffodil and lilies.
Other bulb fields, are situated near Enkhuizen (Bovenkarspel, Andijk) and in the province of Flevoland (Noordoost Polder, Oostelijk Flevoland). Walking, cycling and car routes are available from the local tourist information offices in the bulb field regions.
Each spring, 750,000 visitors come to the Keukenhof, the world’s biggest flower garden. During this event, the famous Flower Parade takes place. This is a huge parade of floats richly decorated with flowers.
Flowers are one of the main export products of Holland. The main importing countries are Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Russia. In order to continue the flower trade all year through, Holland also imports many flowers from, in particular, Africa and Israel, making the country the main importer of the European Union.
Most of the flowers are grown in greenhouses. The Westland area and the city of Aalsmeer are the epicentre of the worldwide flower trade. Holland has approximately 10,000 hectares of glasshouses. One third of this is dedicated to cut flowers.
Research has been carried out into reducing energy consumption as a result of using glasshouses. This has led to experiments with solar panels on glasshouses or floating glasshouses and geothermal energy.
The promotion bureau for Dutch flowers Flower Council of Holland provides facts and figures with regards to the import and export of flowers. The website of the Dutch Agency, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, provides more information about the business side of Holland.
For more information, visit www.keukenhof.com